Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘property maintenance

Happy Grazing

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Late yesterday, Cyndie captured some great shots of the horses out on the big field as the sun was low.

Mix was walking around with only one fly sock on.

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It was nice to see Mix out there with the others because she has been lingering back under the overhang for a few days whenever the others wandered out. It’s difficult to gauge her reasons so our concern rises a little bit and we watch for any indication it is health-related.

Maybe she just doesn’t want to venture very far in the heat of the day.

The other possibility might be the low value of grazing that is available during the increasingly troublesome drought.

I wondered if she just didn’t feel like walking that far, so I’m very happy to know there doesn’t appear to be any physical limitation keeping her from moving out there.

I ended the day doing some trimming along the back pasture fence line and by the time I stopped, I didn’t feel like walking any further than necessary.

We are prone to repeating an old phrase around our house with respect to how our feet feel at the end of a long day: “My dogs were barking.”

After getting covered in dog shit shrapnel from the power trimmer upon inadvertently hitting a poo Delilah had previously deposited, I had a strong interest in doing just enough walking to get myself into a shower as fast as possible.

Living a privileged country life isn’t always a glamorous endeavor.

At least our horses maintain a pretty respectable sense of decorum when they are out grazing on the big field by the road.

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Co-Favorite Place

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For all of my adult life, Cyndie’s family vacation home on Round Lake near Hayward, Wisconsin has been my favorite place. As I wrote yesterday, my affections are now split between our paradise of Wintervale Ranch in Beldenville and Wildwood Lodge Club up north.

I now have co-favorite places.

It is wonderful to be up at the lake again.

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As always, the special feature of the lodge club is communing with the other families and we received an early dose of camaraderie when the next door Whitlock clan showed up just after Cyndie and I arrived. Much love ensued.

There is a lot to do around the property to make it look less neglected as the ravages of winter appear to have wreaked havoc on anything left out in the elements.

Case in point: The front steps to the Friswold “cabin” for which I was so proud to have repaired a single paver block last summer are now failing en masse as the foundation underneath appears to be giving out.

Entire rows are tipping forward. I suppose it’s unfair to blame one winter for this, but it sure seemed fine last year.

I can’t blame the extreme state of the smoke clouded doors of the living room fireplace on anything but neglect to tend to the task of cleaning them in a timely manner. When Marie asked me to build a fire, I figured it wouldn’t add much to the ambience if we couldn’t see the flames. It took a lot of ash-soaked newspaper to rub off the insanely thick baked-on accumulation of smoke on those glass doors.

At least I had the joy of trying to ignite unseasoned firewood that had been supplied for our fire-building pleasure. No wonder there was so much gunk on the glass of the doors.

Maybe, if I love this place as much as I do home, I need to more equally split my attention to maintenance chores. Is the building of a lake-place woodshed in my future?

I would sure appreciate the luxury of selecting dry wood for our fires. So would the chimney flue.

The more immediate concern will be cleaning the beach today. The lake ice pushed a new berm of sandy leaves about a foot high along the full length of our beach shoreline.

What a wonderful location for putting in a day’s work.

My co-favorite place, in fact.

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Written by johnwhays

May 29, 2021 at 8:52 am

Never Mind

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You may disregard the rant I posted yesterday. The trimmer must have been flooded on Saturday when I couldn’t get it to fire. Yesterday morning, before driving to buy a sparkplug, I tried to start it one last time, just in case.

Sure enough, it sputtered on the third pull. There was a fair amount of hesitancy, but eventually, I got it up and running enough to go through a full tank of gas while trimming our trails. So, I didn’t need any professional help to get the engine started after all.

However, in an ironic twist, after refilling the tank with fuel and resuming my trimming task for about 5-minutes, the engine made an odd sound and instantly shut off. Something broke and now the pull cord won’t move at all.

All I can think is that the trimmer must really want to pay a visit to the service department of our hardware store. At least the blow to my confidence about dealing with small gas engines carries much less sting with this situation. It’s not that I just can’t start it, there is something noticeably wrong with the machine.

I can live with that, not counting the suspected higher expense likely indicated by needed repair. We are considering the possibility the cost of repair may exceed the value of the well-used (well-worn) trimmer as a whole.

A quick check of the replacement options reveals that the unit we bought roughly eight years ago is already obsolete. I would be glad to replace the gas-powered machine with an electric one, except for the fact we have so many uses that involve extended hours of operation, present battery capacity is insufficient.

One thing I remember being told by the salesman who helped match our needs with the most appropriate trimmer when I bought this one was that I could run this engine non-stop, all day long and it wouldn’t be a problem. At the time, I assumed that would be more use than we would likely ever approach.

We’ve yet to use it all day, but there are enough areas to be cut that we could. When I’ve been cutting for hours on end, I’ve found comfort in the salesman’s words assuring me that the machine is up to the task.

There are over a mile of fence lines where we use the trimmer to cut the growth beneath the wires and around the posts, also the many trails around the property, the circuitous path of the labyrinth, and the edges around obstacles in our mowed lawn.

We don’t cut these every day, but every day there are areas where the growth has gotten long enough, they deserve to be trimmed.

See why I feel a little apprehensive about not having a stronger grasp of the mastery of working with small gas engines?

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Building Antibodies

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Not being one to wait around for possible illness symptoms to show up, yesterday I joined Cyndie in a significant landscaping project just minutes after receiving my second vaccine shot. The amount of physical exertion we undertook pretty much guaranteed we would feel sore joints and muscles today. It makes it difficult to discern what percentage of my achiness this morning is due to my body being busy developing protection against COVID-19.

The slightly elevated temperature provides a clue that my stiffness isn’t exclusively confined to the contortions I put my body through to dig out a drainage ditch yesterday and move the dirt to the far side of the barn to fill an area that showed renewed settling this spring.

The surface grade between Cyndie’s perennial garden and our driveway had risen every year due to soil flowing downhill from our neighbor’s cultivated field. It had reached a point where runoff wasn’t making it to the drain culvert anymore and would instead flow across the driveway.

I devised a plan to cut into the sod and roll sections back, allowing us to dig the level down multiple inches. We could avoid leaving a dirt swale that would require seeding by simply rolling the sod back down after lowering the level.

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The methods changed and evolved as we took turns digging, hauling, dumping, shaping, and cutting sod, but the end result was wonderfully effective.

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This project provided one of my favorite rewards in tasks around the property in that we achieved two goals simultaneously. Ticked two lines off the to-do list all at once. Being able to pass these two locations as we go about our activities and notice the ditch beside the driveway is fixed to provide flow to the culvert and the dip in the turf above the paddocks is filled up again brings recurring joy and satisfaction.

Compare that to the ongoing grief of seeing the problem growing daily for the last few years. I finished the day giddy with delight.

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By removing the high spot in the drain path beside the driveway, we are building “antibodies,” so to speak, to fight off water flow problems on our land.

I have no concerns if it rains today. The drainage ditch could use some washing of leftover dirt and I plan to give my body the day off to rest. We got two things done at once yesterday. We deserve a day off!

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Necessary Evil

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One of the tasks I tend to delay more than any others is cutting down trees. There are times it needs to happen and times it probably should happen, but I struggle with knowing when an ailing tree honestly has no future. I usually choose to rely on time to make the status obvious.

Waiting comes at the expense of a perfect landscape view. Cyndie admitted to not enjoying the scene out across the deck that, from her vantage point, was always filled with the brown needles of another dying pine tree. I respect that.

Yesterday, we dispatched the fading relic. A necessary evil.

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Of course, I saved a portion of the trunk to serve as a platform for balanced rock art.

While I was at it, I also trimmed a section that looked like it had potential to become a future heart sculpture.

Do you see the beautiful pine heart hiding inside there that I see?

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2021 at 10:40 am

Reclaiming Space

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Picking up where we left off over a month ago, this past weekend we resumed cutting away at the tangle of growth along the hedge wall of our north property line.

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It’s rewarding work, despite how frustrating it is to deal with so many twisted branches locked together by vines. I am forever baffled by how much resistance the littlest of branches offer against attempts to pull them apart.

Usually, the key is to push them further together in order to reposition the catch points before pulling them apart, but that is counterintuitive to the goal of separating them. The natural inclination is to try pulling harder in the assumption that arm muscle is significantly more powerful than the spindly twig junctions.

Now our perimeter walks around the property with Delilah can follow right beside the old barbed wire fence on that length of our north loop.

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Written by johnwhays

November 9, 2020 at 7:00 am

More Clearing

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On Saturday, we worked on the north side of our property. Yesterday, we directed our attention to the south. It has been several years since I properly worked to clear the drainage ditch that runs along most of the southern border of our property.

The first winter we were here I saw how the accumulated snow piled up against the neglected growth of brush and small trees in the drainage path. It acted as a dam and caused water to overflow the ditch during the spring melt. I remedied that for the next season by cutting out the trees and mowing the length of the ditch.

Lucky for us, the overflow poured into the neighbor’s field that year, not ours. He never said anything about it, but I’m sure he is happy seeing the attention I have given toward keeping the ditch clear since then.

I was complacent last year and skipped doing any cutting, so the random volunteer trees were able to establish themselves a little more significantly than I’d prefer.

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After first clearing each end of the ditch with the power trimmer, the rest was a cinch with the brush cutter on the diesel tractor. Well, that is, after pruning some branches that interfered with the upper portions of the tractor. Once we trimmed those, I just backed my way the length of the ditch and returned.

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VoilĂ .

Let the water flow.

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2020 at 6:00 am

Pondering Still

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In a simple reflection of the stressful current events that hardly need listing, my days are splattered with competing demands commanding my attention. I’m growing weary of the constant exercise of redirecting my energy from the angst-inducing to the peaceful loving focus I prefer.

I should be rewarded by the project of clearing brush we worked on yesterday in the uncharacteristic high humidity, but the slow progress was overshadowed by the pall of troublesome political, societal, and environmental issues simmering in a brew of the coronavirus pandemic stew.

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The front (or eastern) half of the northern border of our property has a natural fence of uncontrolled growth that I have long sought to turn into a wall by trimming it like a hedge. A year or so after we moved here, I made a first swipe along the span, cutting back the existing growth. In the ensuing years, I have gained enough confidence to cut the “hedge” much closer to the very old and mostly buried barbed wire fence that long ago defined the property line.

Yesterday’s effort was nice to accomplish, but it was a sweaty struggle against the frustrating strength of entangled vines that fought back unendingly against our every attempt to clear branches. The grey clouds hung low and the high dew point temperature gave the September air an odd thickness that was the opposite of inspiring freshness.

For all the progress we made, stepping back to look at the distance that still remained to be cleared revealed how little had actually been gained. It felt all too similar to the issues of social justice that are far from being accomplished.

The world at large does influence each of our own individual environments. If anyone is suffering, we all suffer.

A new Minnesota poll just released highlighted a variety of details related to the pending U.S. Presidential election. One that resonated in particular for me was how the level of education reflected the differing amount of support for the two main candidates. I think that speaks volumes.

Don’t ever vote stupid. Get educated on our democracy. Become smart enough to recognize integrity.

Imagine if we could vote in a government that would work to protect citizens from stupid ideas. Oh to have a Federal Government that would swiftly and intelligently address the pandemic. Oh to have leaders who would uphold the intent of our protections against harming the environment. Oh to have leaders who could enforce financial ethics guidelines.

Oh to have the entire length of our “hedge” shaped by the time next spring’s growth begins to expand it once again.

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Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2020 at 10:32 am

Focus Shift

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I started the day yesterday with our Stihl power trimmer working primarily along the hay-field fence line out by the road. With the field freshly cut, the strip of tall grass along the fence stood out in obvious need of attention. It looks so nice when that is cleaned up.

After the first tank of gas was used up, I walked back to the shop to stretch my legs out and refill the tank. While there, I took a little break to answer nature’s call at the base of a pine tree and noticed a vine growing up from deep inside the tangle of branches. Thinking I should tend to the situation in the moment instead of waiting until it was out of sight/out of mind, I fetched a saw from the shop and braved the thick web of poking limbs, slithering into the shadow world beneath the tree.

From that vantage point, I discovered there were many more than just the one obvious vine growing into the heights. As I worked my way around the circumference of that tree, I came to another right beside it with even more unwelcome intruders climbing up its branches.

After the second tree, I moved on to a third, and a fourth, soon recognizing that this side project could consume the rest of my day if I let it.

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The remaining trees can wait. I went back to trimming the tall grass along the edges of the hay-field.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Like This

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It’s like this every year. The forest is constantly changing, but it becomes apparent suddenly all at once. It’s not as thick as it was before. Sightlines start to open up. It becomes easier to see deeper into our woods and I discover new and interesting spectacles.

This dead tree had sloughed its bark, but a vine prevented the old skin from dropping all the way to the ground, creating an eye-catching visual.

It’s also like this when deciding to go outside on a day of varying weather conditions. Our sky was a mix of sun and clouds yesterday, resulting in dramatic swings between cheery and gloomy. When I finally rallied to head outside to get something productive accomplished, the air was suddenly wet with waves of heavy mist.

My timing was off by about ten minutes. As fast as that precipitation arrived, it departed.

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Those two views were taken at the same time, first looking east, then turning around to the west.

The swings of dreariness messed with my motivation, such that I ended up puttering the day away nipping at the edges of doing something significant, but never really making much progress to speak of.

Some days, that’s just what it’s like around here.

At least it’s a beautiful place to be when not getting all that much done.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2019 at 7:41 am